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ClientEarth Communications

20th March 2024

News

CASE WIN: KLM's greenwashing has been found illegal

The District Court of Amsterdam has ruled that KLM was acting unlawfully by using misleading advertising, which falsely promoted the sustainability of flying.

This judgment sets a major legal precedent with ramifications for airlines worldwide.

Our greenwashing fight to date

In July 2022, we supported Fossielvrij Netherlands and Reclame Fossielvrij in filing a groundbreaking lawsuit against KLM, marking the first-ever legal claim challenging airline industry greenwashing.

The case argued that KLM's advertising misled the public by giving the impression that the airline is tackling climate change, despite the fact that its plans for air traffic growth will exacerbate the crisis. It also challenged KLM's carbon offsetting marketing, which suggests customers can reduce their flight's impact by supporting reforestation projects or the airline’s costs of purchasing small quantities of biofuels.

This judgment has ramifications for airlines worldwide, and sets an important legal precedent for companies employing greenwashing advertising in general. The judgment clears the way for companies genuinely acting on the climate emergency to compete fairly for public support and consumer attention.

Today’s judgment is a landmark victory in the fight against greenwashing. KLM’s “green” marketing creates a misplaced trust that even if you are worried about the climate crisis, you can board a plane reassured you are not harming the planet. The judge has put an end to this harmful strategy to lull the public and politicians to sleep.

- Hiske Arts, Fossielvrij 

Unfortunately, there is still work to be done. The judge failed to issue any orders against KLM’s future advertising in the ruling. We had called for remedies including bans on this kind of greenwashing advertising in the future, as well as ‘tobacco style’ climate warning labels being included on KLM’s flight booking pages, and we’ll keep pushing to see these enforced across the industry.

Ultimately, we need to clean up all fossil fuel advertising if we are to clean up the climate. At ClientEarth, we will continue to hold companies accountable for greenwashing.

Help hold corporations accountable for greenwashing